(by Helen Kennedy, NYDailyNews.com) – Washington’s biggest state secrets – from Arab leaders privately begging for air strikes on Iran to American diplomats spying on UN officials – were laid bare Sunday in a massive online document dump.
The WikiLeaks publication of 250,000 diplomatic cables stripped the veil from long-classified projects, exposed back-channel communications and revealed unflattering comments about foes and friends alike.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called it “the 9/11 of world diplomacy.”
An angry White House said people trying to help the U.S. abroad may die because of the leak. Secretary of State Clinton was calling allies in full damage-control mode.
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to designate WikiLeaks a “foreign terrorist organization,” saying it “posed a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States,” and to prosecute founder Julian Assange for espionage.
WikiLeaks says it plans to release more documents “in stages over the next few months.”
Among the many eye-opening revelations:
– Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to launch air strikes on Iran to destroy its nuclear program.
“Cut off the head of the snake,” the Saudi ambassador to Washington urged Gen. David Petraeus, who commands U.S. forces in Afghanistan. [NOTE: The people of Iran are Persian, not Arab, and they follow Shiite Islam. The people of Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries in the Middle East are Arab, and follow Sunni Islam, making Iran enemies of most of the rest of the Muslim world.]
Officials in Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have all also secretly pushed for military strikes against Tehran’s nuke plans, according to the secret cables. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,” said Bahrain’s King Hamad.
By revealing such frank conversations with secretive Arab leaders who usually enjoy a lack of press freedom at home, the leaks may end up having a more profound effect on the Middle East than on Washington.
– The Yemeni government has been covering up U.S. air strikes on suspected Al Qaeda militants.
“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told Petraeus in January, according to one cable.
– A Feb. 24 account of a top-secret meeting with the Russians revealed that Moscow believes Iran has outdated missiles that pose only a regional threat and isunlikely to acquire better technology. Russia disputed U.S. claims that North Korea smuggled 19 mega-missiles to Iran in2005 that might be able to hit Europe.
The two sides argued over whether the missiles even existed, with the U.S. saying North Korea showed them off in a military parade and Russia saying spy photos of the parade show it was a different kind of missile.
– In July 2009, diplomats assigned to the UN were asked to gather technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including computer passwords, and detailed biometric information on all the top UN officials.
Washington also wanted credit card numbers, email addresses and phone, fax and pager numbers – plus frequent-flier numbers – for top UN figures.
– Washington has been secretly battling Pakistan over nuclear fuel in a Pakistani reactor that the U.S. wants to remove for fear it could fall into the wrong hands. Pakistan fears the public will think it is giving up its nukes to America.
– China hacked into Google’s computer systems as part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage.
– Unflattering descriptions of foreign leaders by U.S. diplomats: French President Nicolas Sarkozy is “an emperor without clothes”; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is likened to Adolf Hitler; Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is “pale, hesitant”; Afghan President Hamid Karzai is “driven by paranoia,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “avoids risk and is rarely creative.”
– American diplomats are suspicious of the close personal relationship between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, including the exchange of “lavish gifts.”
Contact reporter Helen Kennedy at email@example.com.
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Daily News. Visit the website at nydailynews.com.
1. WikiLeaks has released hundreds of thousands of U.S. classified documents this week. In general, what does the classified information reveal?
2. How did the White House respond to these new leaks by WikiLeaks?
3. a) What does NY Congressman Pete King have to say about the leaks and the leaker?
b) Do you agree with Rep. King? Explain your answer.
4. a) Define classified as used in the article.
b) What classified information was revealed about the President of Yemen?
c) Do you think that information will jeopardize President Saleh’s safety? Explain your answer.
5. a) What classified information was revealed about U.S. government negotiations with Pakistan over its nuclear fuel?
b) How might this affect U.S. ability to dispose of Pakistan’s nuclear fuel?
6. Read the “Background” information below the questions. This article only provides a brief look at the classified U.S. government/military information WikiLeaks has released to the public. The U.S. Army soldier who stole the information from U.S. military computers and gave it to WikiLeaks is charged with leaking and transmitting national security information.
a) What, if anything, should the U.S. government have done to prevent Julian Assange (an Australian citizen) of WikiLeaks from publicizing classified U.S. information?
b) What should they do now that Mr. Assange has published the documents?
NOTE ABOUT THE CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS:[Yesterday’s] release was the third by WikiLeaks in recent months, following caches of U.S. documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The New York Times, the U.K.’s Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel, El Pais of Spain and France’s Le Monde gained access to the documents well ahead of their release and wrote extensive reports about them. Some of the cables – largely from 2007 through last February [and mostly classified] – were attached to those organizations’ websites. Though commonly called cables in the diplomatic world, they were encrypted emails sent by special devices. The Wall Street Journal had declined to accept a set of preconditions related to disclosure of WikiLeaks documents, [and therefore did not have access to the classified documents before they were published at WikiLeaks].
The prime suspect [of the document leaks] is U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who [moved to] England [from Oklahoma at age 14 with his mother after his parents divorced, and then back to the U.S. to live with his father and then join the army] [He] is currently in solitary confinement awaiting trial over the WikiLeaks disclosures.
By the 23-year-old’s own account, it appears to have been staggeringly easy for him to make off with reams of highly classified data. The downloads were carried out while Manning was working at the U.S. 10th Mountain Division in Iraq.
“I would come in with music on a CD-RW labelled with something like Lady Gaga… erase the music… then write a compressed split file,” he wrote in an online chat. “No one suspected a thing. (I) listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga’s Telephone while ‘exfiltrating’ possibly the largest data spillage in America history. Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repositary of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public. Everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed. Worldwide anarchy in CSV format. It’s beautiful and horrifying.” He added: “Information should be free. It belongs in the public domain.” (from Britain’s dailymail.co.uk news)
WIKILEAKS AND JULIAN ASSANGE:
WikiLeaks is an international non-profit media organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous sources and leaks. Julian Assange, a former hacker and Australian journalist is Wikileaks’ director.
In April 2010, WikiLeaks posted video from a 2007 incident in which Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. forces, on a website called Collateral Murder. In July 2007, WikiLeaks released Afghan War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the War in Afghanistan not previously available for public review. In October the group released a package of almost 400,000 documents called the Iraq War Logs in coordination with major commercial media organizations.
Despite its name, WikiLeaks is not a wiki – once published, its content cannot be edited by visitors. (from wikipedia)
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